The blue waters of the Mediterranean meet us when we get off the train. Monterosso Al Mare is Cinque Terre's northernmost town and our first stop among the five villages. It feels a little strange to write that this is the largest of the villages, as there are hardly more than 1500 inhabitants here. Cinque Terre's villages are not big, but popular.
Spiaggia di Fegina beach is unrecognizable from the pictures I saw online before I went here. Not a parasol. Hardly any towels. The summer heat is starting to feel today, but there are two months left until the beach invasion. On the village's famous rock, tourists climb up and down for the perfect selfie.
The only attraction in Monterosso al Mare that I planned to visit is the large statue of Neptune that lines one side of the beach. We go down to the beach and aim for the statue. But where is it? We look at the map again and raise our eyes in the direction of the statue. A covered steel scaffold meets our eyes. Renovation. I can't even make out the statue through the net if I wanted to.
We turn our backs on Neptunus and instead go towards the old part of town, past Torre Aurora. The tower which in the 16th century was the village's protection against pirates. Today, a finer cocktail bar and restaurant is located here. No pirates to defend the village against these days.
Monterosso Al Mare is certainly not the typical Cinque Terre village that I expected. Not nearly as dramatic, not nearly as picturesque. A little less crowded between the houses, a little less charming alleys. A little more modern. But Monterosso has an advantage that the other villages do not have - the beaches. None of the other villages has a beach. White, coarse-grained and with crystal clear water. All the wonderful qualities that the shores of the Mediterranean often and generously offer.
We walk around the cliff to enjoy the view of the village's other shore and the old town. What we are met with is not what we expected. We are met by... a tractor.
The entire beach at the old part of town has been excavated. The boats have been moved and the sea is yellow and cloudy from all the digging. I try to see beyond the ruts. Beyond all the mess. Trying to find the charm and beauty. But I don't succeed. The first village in Cinque Terre that I visit is simply not love at first sight.
We walk along the beach for a while, but none of us feels like stopping and eating lunch here. We head back towards the train to go on to the next village – Vernazza.
Help! Renovations! When were we here?
We visited Monterosso al Mare in April 2019, during the week before Easter, but it seems that Neptune has been under renovation for over a year. Nowhere was it stated when neither the statue nor the beaches would be restored.
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